The Best Places to Travel in January

It’s January. The holiday season has passed. The snow is piling ever higher and a wicked wind blows out of the north, bringing with it polar vortexes and wind chill factors enough to freeze your face in a matter of minutes. The nights are long and the days are frigid, even if they are sunny. You need to escape…but where? Try one of these 8 locations on for size, traveler, and get your bags packed for some nicer weather.

8. Belize

Mexico is the giant of Central American tourism, offering both cheap resort tourism for snowbirds and spring breakers, offering up opportunities to explore jungles, ancient Aztec ruins and contemporary Mayan culture, but Belize has many of the same qualities, but with fewer tourists. Lying along the Caribbean Sea, Belize is quite a bit smaller than the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala, both in terms of area and population. In recent years, Belize has become a popular alternative for those looking to escape the droves of tourists in Mexico. Although Belize can cost a little more, it offers opportunities for travelers to explore extensive coral reefs, jungle and wildlife reserves and Mayan ruins. Belize is home to the largest cave system in Central America, if you’re up for some subterranean adventure. January averages temperatures of 24°C (75°F) and is part of the dry season, meaning you can expect sunshine.

Belize 2

7. Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been something of an anomaly in Central America; it has been democratically stable whereas other countries have faced upheaval and dictatorships, and Costa Rica has been pushing a green agenda to take care of its natural resources. The country aims to become carbon-neutral by 2021 and has even been named the greenest country in the world. For that reason, Costa Rica has become Latin America’s go-to for ecotourism, with a special focus on green tourism. Costa Rica’s most famous natural landscape is the cloud forests, tropical rainforests formed in the heights of the Cordillera mountains that traverse the country, and it’s marine ecosystems as the country is bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The country comprises less than 1% of the world’s landmass, but contains 5% of its biodiversity. January is dry season and average temperatures are about 27°C.

Costa Rica

6. Aruba

Just 29 kilometers north of the coast of Venezuela, in the Caribbean Sea, lies the island-nation of Aruba. Aruba is an interesting island: it forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and its citizens are Dutch. Aruba’s climate has helped its tourism industry as the island lies outside Hurricane Alley and experiences a dry climate, producing reliably warm, sunny weather year-round. The interior of the island features hilly terrain and desert-like scrublands dotted with cacti, while the south and western shores have white, sandy beaches that are relatively sheltered from the ocean. Although Aruba doesn’t celebrate its National Day until March, January 25 is the celebration of the birthday of Betico Croes, a proponent of Aruban independence and considered by some to be the “father” of Aruba as an independent state.

Aruba

5. Cyprus

Want to get further afield and go trans-Atlantic for January? Check out Cyprus. Located south of Turkey, Cyprus has the warmest winters—and indeed, the warmest climate—in the Mediterranean European Union. Snow is only possible in the Troodos mountains, while most coastal locations experience pleasant 16–17°C weather throughout January. It may not be beach weather, exactly, but it is certainly warmer than some climates—and with almost 200 sunshine hours for the month on average, Cyprus can be a reprieve from the long, dark nights of more northern locations. Cyprus has a rich history, stretching from Greek to Byzantine to Ottoman empires, and many traditions to explore. Music, art and cuisine are all integral experiences for visitors. Not looking to escape winter? The Troodos mountains provide a great skiing experience, an excellent alternative to the busy Alps of western Europe.

Cyprus

4. Grenada

The island of Grenada and six smaller islands, located at the southern end of the chain known as the Grenadines, form the country of Grenada. Another southern Caribbean destination, Grenada is known as the “Island of Spice,” because it is one of the world’s largest exporters of nutmeg and mace. The island is cooled by the trade winds during the dry season. Beach tourism is centered on the capital of St. George in the southwest, while Saint David and Saint John parishes have witnessed the growth of eco-conscious tourism in recent years. Grenada has many idyllic beaches along its coasts, the Grand Anse Beach in St. George, a 3-kilometer long strip of white, sandy beach, is considered one of the finest in the world. Another major natural attraction is the island’s abundance of waterfalls, including the Annandale Falls, Mt. Carmel and Seven Sisters.
Grand Anse Beach

3. Canary Islands

Although part of Spain, the Canary Islands have a much different climate than most of the country. Temperatures average about 20°C on most of the islands in the chain, and January generally sees relatively little precipitation. Santa Cruz is the wettest island at this time of year, receiving, on average, about 1.25 inches of rainfall. The Canary Islands have plenty to recommend them aside from sunshine and warm temperatures. La Palma is home to cloud forests, similar to the forests of Costa Rica. Most of the islands, including Tenerife and Gran Canaria, feature black sand beaches. Tenerife’s nightlife at Playa de las Americas is legendary. Tourism is a well-developed industry and the island’s function almost like a Caribbean getaway for most of Europe. Perhaps the best part is that getting here won’t cost much more than flying to some Caribbean destinations.

Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com
Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com

2. Barbados

This island in the Lesser Antilles has earned itself a reputation as a more exclusive and chi-chi getaway in the southern Caribbean. This is somewhat true: trips to Barbados are usually more pricey compared to places like Mexico and Dominican Republic. The dry season runs from December to May, and gentle breezes keep the island’s temperatures more moderate than some of its neighbors. The western and south shores are popular for beach tourism, while surfers would do well to visit the Atlantic coast, where tumbling waves make for ideal surfing conditions. The country’s coral reefs provide ample opportunity for diving and snorkeling. Another popular activity is shopping, as there are several shopping districts in the south of the island, many of them offering duty-free shopping. Golf and helicopter rides are also popular tourist activities.

Bridgetown Barbados

1. Curacao

About 65 kilometers north of the Venezuelan coast, you’ll find the island of Curacao. Along with Saint Maarten and Aruba, the island is part of the Dutch Caribbean and forms a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Until 2010, it was known as the “island territory of Curacao,” one of five such territories in the former Netherlands Antilles. The island has a tropical Savannah climate and January marks the start of the dry season. The temperature hovers around 25°C and less than two inches of rain falls during the month. Curacao has been less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean islands, although it is popular with divers and snorkelers. Many coral reefs can be reached without a boat and the island’s southern coast features calm waters and numerous small beaches. If you’re looking for a less-frequented getaway, skip Aruba and spring for Curacao.

Curacao

 

The 7 Best Beaches for Winter Surfing

Surfing is truly a year round sport, especially with the advances in wetsuit technology, making it easier than ever to stay warm and surf any temperature of water. Surfing is challenging enough on its own, but throw in huge winter swells and this sport becomes even more exciting. From the warm waters of Hawaii to the especially cold waters of Canada, these 7 places are the ultimate for winter surfing. Some of these beaches have waves meant for the experts while others are good for all levels, but they all have one thing in common, they are absolutely awesome in the wintertime.

7. Black’s Beach, California

Black Beach is a two-mile long beach that is perfect for winter surfing. On the southern edge of this beach is where you will find the best waves. The reason this beach puts out such good waves is that it sucks in north swells and manages to spit out A-frames and shimmering walls. Local surfers flock to this beach but it is well worth the walk down the trail to catch a few of these epic waves. Make sure you bundle up in that wetsuit as the water in the wintertime is quite chilly. If you look high above on the cliff tops you can be sure to spot some resident peregrine falcons.

"Blacks-Beach-View-South-La-Jolla" by Abeach4u - http://www.san-diego-beaches-and-adventures.com/blacks-beach-san-diego.html. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.
Blacks-Beach-View-South-La-Jolla” by Abeach4uhttp://www.san-diego-beaches-and-adventures.com/blacks-beach-san-diego.html. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

6. Hanalei Beach, Hawaii

This two-mile long beach in Hawaii boasts white sands and an incredible background of mountains and lush green vegetation. It is known not just as a romantic beach but also a surfer’s paradise. From September to May is the best time to head to this beach as the current is sturdy and the waves break right on the beach. A sand bottom makes this beach is even more appealing to surfers. Make sure you are an experienced surfer as the strong current and huge waves in the wintertime can be dangerous for beginners. The nice thing about surfing in Hawaii is the year round warm water temperatures and weather.

Hanalei Beach, Hawaii

5. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

The north shore has been called Europe’s answer to Hawaii and surfing in the winter has been happening here for years and years. Locals call Fuerteventura “the Rock” but unlike the sand on most of the other Canary Islands which is black, the sand here is a charming pale yellow. The sun often shines all day in the wintertime here and the water is a sparkling royal blue. Surfers head to Playa Morro to ride long gentle waves into shore in the bath-warm water. For a bigger wave head to Playa Cotillo where the waves descend onto the shores with a deafening crash, or head to the famous Acid Drop or the Bubble, two north shore breaks that make this island famous. There are plenty of accommodations, delicious places to eat and more than enough helpful locals to point you in the right direction of the best winter waves.

Esmerelda Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

4. Morocco, Africa

The best time for surfing, hands down, in Morocco is the wintertime. From September to April you will find bigger swells and mild weather, the perfect combination. The waves here generally break over flat rock and sand with great point breaks and surfers come from all over the world to experience these waters. Boilers is Morocco’s most challenging surf spot, named after the boiler of a shipwreck that can be seen as the waves form. This awe-inspiring surf spot is meant for experienced surfers only, especially in the winter with those big swells. Anchor Point on the other hand is known for its consistent waves at all tide and waves normally start at 3 feet and can reach up to 15 feet. There is no better time to experience the famous right hands than the wintertime in Northern Africa.

Surfing Morocco, Africa

3. Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

It is here where you will find 35 km’s of surf-able beach breaks, perfect for beginners or experts, although big winter storms will have beginners watching from shore. Prepare to bundle up when you hit these cold Canadian waters, as you will need a warm wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. Although this is a year round surfing destination with thousands flocking in the summertime to try their hand at this sport, its winter that offers the strongest and most consistent swell. The surfing town of Tofino has an array of shops, places to eat and off-the-wall accommodations. Most surfers head to Long Beach where 16 km’s of sand await any level of surfer. Chesterman Beach is also a popular hot spot, located just 8 minutes from Central Tofino and offers one of the best beginner breaks in North America. As for the cold, you hardly notice it when you are zipping along some of the best winter waves in the world.

Tofino surfing

2. Baja, Mexico

Baja can be divided into two major surf regions; Northern Baja and Southern Baja with both offering excellent winter surfing. If you want the really big swell though, you will head to Northern Baja, but be prepared to bundle up. It’s much colder up here and its not uncommon to need a full wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. The Northern area is also where you will find great breaks without big crowds, although some of the areas have become more developed with vacation homes and rentals. Head to San Miguel for some of the best winter waves, although surfers need to be aware of sea urchins and sharp rock bottom. For some of the biggest waves in the Pacific during the winter head to Todos Santos (The Killers), an island accessible by boat or Jet Ski. There are a variety of breaks around the island including Killers, one of the original big break surfing spots. You won’t find many beginners here, just great waves and great surfers.

surfing Baja Mexico

1. Maine, USA

The water is never particularly warm in this state but that doesn’t stop surfers from flocking here in the winter months. You won’t get the towering swells of Pacific hot spots but you will get unspoiled landscapes, desolate waters, a tight community of local surfers and consistent surf-able waves. Beginners and vets often head to Long Sands Beach, which offers a clean beach with waves breaking over a sandbar. Some of the biggest waves in the state are located at the exposed beach called Higgins Beach. It here where fifteen-foot swells are not unheard of and there are a few rocks to watch out for, so beginners should be very cautious. In the summer this beach is actually closed during the day to surfers so this remains a popular winter surfing destination.

Photo by: Youtube/DaveIn NH
Photo by: Youtube/DaveIn NH